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How to Help Someone Going Through Cancer

Yep, I chopped my hair off. It started falling out, in dramatic fashion, everywhere. The amount of hair coming out would make anyone gasp, even if you knew it was coming. Cutting it off was easy, because it was going to be a relief to not see clumps of long hair all over the place. I took a shower after I got home, rookie move. Now this so-called-pixie-cut is patchy and see through in many places. 

I'm 5 days post my second round of Chemo and I'm coming out of the hole that you climb into during the aftermath. I can feel the bloat coming on. Basically, I'm sick with the worst stomach flu of my life for 4 days, then I start retaining every ounce of fluid available. This week I'm also fully engulfed in the Chemo fog. I AM REAL DUMB right now people, REAL DUMB. Like, it's hard to use actual words when I'm talking. Thankfully, I can still type, but speaking is a struggle.

I also wanted to touch on a topic that is hard for me, but something that everyone is asking about...what can you do to help me? I don't really know. Honestly, when you're in the midst of a crisis, it's extremely hard to even determine what help is needed, much less ask for it. If you're lucky enough, you'll have a few people in your life that don't ask - they just do. I feel like the luckiest cancer patient around, because I've had an outpouring of help. So, I'm going to mention a few things that have been helpful in some capacity in case you know anyone who is going through this, that you may want to help.

My Aunts and Uncle sent me my favorite hometown pizzas, from La Casa Pizzeria. Cooked fresh, then frozen and delivered right to my door. What a time to be alive! We've already had one and it was amazeballs. If y'all ever find yourself in Omaha, do yourself a solid and visit La Casa. You won't be disappointed.

My brother and his girlfriend sent ice cream, deliciously personalized ice cream, from another Omaha company, eCreamery. Not only was it packed adorably with personalized ice cream creations, it's actually totally delicious ice cream.  I would highly recommend using them if you need to send someone a gift in the future. Who doesn't love ice cream?!

My Aunt & Uncle that live nearby-ish sent over casseroles for dinner (for several nights) which was super helpful. Elliott still eats a strict hot dog and/or chicken nugget diet, but the rest of us really appreciated not having to cook while still being able to enjoy a delicious meal. 

My Mom and Mother-in-law selected a maid service and sent them over to clean every 2 weeks. I CANNOT express how awesome this is. She's only here for 4 hours every 2 weeks, so priorities are a must, but I may keep her once I'm Cancer free just because of how amazing it is to have someone else pitch in to clean this place.

I'm blessed with an amazing tribe and family. My parents, Mother-in-law, brother-in-law, friends and my Aunt & Uncle have all stepped up and babysat the kids while I ran to appointments and procedures during the staging portion of this journey. It helped keep me (moderatly) calm knowing that the kids were with people they love while Matt and I were away. And now, another member of the tribe, has volunteered her time to become my sister wife. If she wasn't here during the 4-5 days immediately following my Chemo I would simply not be able to survive. I'm able to nap, rest and puke uninterrupted while she takes care of the kiddos.  If it wasn't so annoying, I'd "hashtag blessed" her ass all over the interwebs.

Comfort Items:
Flowers are always appreciated because they help bring a little sunshine inside and make me smile whenever I walk past them. I love having real flowers around but consider it a luxury that this SAHM doesn't indulge in often. So keep 'em coming.

Chemo makes me cold for 4 days, then hot for 4, then back to cold, and so on and so on. So, a comfy robe was a much appreciated gift from a friend. Plus, it was a fancy, schmancy Vera Bradley Robe. So she scored some cool points there.

A friend of my Mom sent me a handmade yellow pashmina. It's beautiful and was incredibly sweet.

Even something as simple as a greeting card expressing your sympathy is enough to boost my spirits.  All my cards are being displayed proudly as I try to bring their positive messages into a daily mantra. While all are loved, so far, this one is my favorite. Because it's just so me.

Hand Sanitizer: 
Seriously, my immune system is donezo. Please don't come around here unless you've slathered yourself (and your children) in hand sanitizer. Because we're basically bathing in the stuff over here, we can always use more.

So, that's it. My big public thank you list and a helpful how-to list for anyone you know that might need a pick me up while battling the Big C.

Chemo week 2: Waiting For baldness

I fared pretty well immediately following round one of Chemo, but I hear the side effects get worse with each round. Is that true? God, I hope not.

This week, I've felt pretty good, except for the bloating. Good God, the bloating? I expected to lose weight due to all the nausea, instead, my body is holding on to every bit of fluid it receives like it's never getting any again. Somehow, I'm in the bathroom every 20 minutes like I'm 9 months preggo, yet the bloat never leaves.

I might be as puffy as a Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon, but I still have my hair! It's getting thinner, but no need for a cover yet. I consider just shaving it all off, just to get it over with. While I'm here, waiting to go bald, I decided to go all out and blog dry AND straighten it for Valentines Day dinner with Matt. Then, I felt compelled to take a selfie, my second ever selfie.

Honestly, I feel pretty lucky to be able to celebrate Valentines Day with Matt and our little family this year. Hoping next year, I'll be Cancer free and flourishing in my recovery.

AND, here I am, in my chair, as poison is pumped into my body, to heal me. Weird, right? I'm waiting for my radioactive superhero to emerge. My third selfie, I'm out of control. This is who I am now.

First week of Chemo

Dare I say, I’m feeling quite close to normal today. The nausea has subsided and that is something to be thankful for. 

No matter how close to normal as I feel, the fatigue is constant, definitely on par with first-trimester-of-pregnancy tired. A nap a day is required but when you’re a SAHM with a 3 year old who doesn’t nap, “rest hour” while watching Disney Junior becomes very important. 

The fatigue hit like a train wreck and the nausea was a beast on days 3 & 4. But, again, a big thank you to the doctors for prescribing wonderful meds. The meds make me drowsy but they keep the nausea as controlled as possible. Setting an alarm to get up and take meds in the middle of the night and having crackers, on the bedside table, to eat before getting up have helped with my nausea as well. 

Our house is trashed and the baskets are overflowing with toys that don’t belong there, because all I have energy to do is throw them in the damn basket. The toilets need cleaned. The laundry needs to be put away (although, in all honesty, that’s not new). “The Moms” (my mom and Matt’s mom) gifted us some sessions with a maid service, which starts Friday. Halle-fucking-lujah!

I still have my hair, for now. We’re on day 6 and I was told it usually falls out between days 10 and 14. I ordered 4 scarves and 3 beanies (is that excessive?), it’s one for everyday, which made sense to me. I think insurance covers a wig, with a prescription, so I’m gonna bring that up next week with my Oncologist.

I haven’t had to rock the face mask yet, but I will at Oliver’s 18 month well visit next week. I haven’t felt particularly brave yet, but I think stepping foot inside a pediatrician’s office with a weak immune system is brave. Not wearing a mask, would be stupid. So, naturally, I ordered a couple washable cutesy face masks on Etsy. Which took me down the custom graphic tee rabbit hole, where I found this. Clearly, I needed it too.

Chemo Day 1

As I walked into the cancer center on Friday incredibly nervous, but also ready to get started with this so that we can be done with this. 

12:30  I checked in for my pre-treatment labs. I had applied a HEAPING blob of the lidocaine numbing cream on my port an hour before my lab draw, as suggested. Which, was super helpful, because, the nurses had a hard time trying to locate the “bullseye” they need to poke the needle into my port. Apparently, this is common with newly installed ports, due to swelling during the healing process. I had one nurse try 2 times, unsuccessfully. A second nurse tried to locate the “bullseye”, but wasn’t confident enough, so she called in the Boss Bitch. She found it, “tapped in” and took some the blood samples to be tested. *they have to make sure your levels are healthy enough to receive the treatment*

1:15-2:00 spent the next 45 minutes waiting for lab results, but I did this in a lounge chair with Netflix so I was fine with the waiting.

2:15-4:30 during this time, I received the AC Chemo drugs (along with some anti nausea ones) intravenously via my port. I’m gonna keep it real guys, I asked for some “happy juice” to help ease my anxiety because, damn, it was real. After a little Ativan, I was feeling much calmer and didn’t notice anything more  as the medicines were added. Matt watched a movie on his iPad and I spent the time filling up my Amazon cart (time to shop for new headwear!?). 

Then, OMG, they have therapy dogs!! I was so excited to see this beautiful girl come visit me for a pick me up. 

After the IV drip was over, my nice pod nurse placed my nuelasta auto injector on my arm. This will self administer a shot, in 27 hours, to help protect me from infections by stimulating my bone marrow to grow. We're living in the future guys. 

That was it. Honestly, it was a very anti-climatic day. I was terrified but I'm proud of myself for doing it. Now I enter this hell of the unknown again. I keep thinking every little thing is a side effect. Do you guys remember the movie, Reality Bites? It was a favorite of mine back in the day, because who didn't have a thing for slacker-ass Ethan Hawke? Anyway, there's a scene when Janeane Garofalo's character is waiting for her HIV results and she says "...Every time I sneeze, it's like I'm four sneezes away from the hospice..." That's exactly how I feel right now. 

Here's the full clip, because it's hilarious and I just love that movie.